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Anyone who wants to know what is going on here should bear in mind that hyperbole, emotion, lack of information, and a huge amount of spin accompany the reporting of this war. It's not only politicians and ideologues who are trying to play with your head. Some reporters and news organizations came to this story with points-of-view which they now need to promote or defend, whether or not they realize they are doing it. Nor are many foreign reporters familiar with the background that brought us to where we are.

Very little hard information is available, so reporters have to work with other material.

Here are some examples, in general. A story that purports to tell you which side is suffering more should be suspect. Ditto for stories that profess to reveal a sinister secret Israeli plan of one kind or another. They are likely to contain the words "agenda" and "pretext." Other terms that can betray bias or spin include the words "homemade," "crude" and "rudimentary" to characterize Hamas rockets, or "inaccurate" to describe Hezbollah missiles, or "disproportionate" to describe Israel's response (unless the writer can tell the reader what a proportionate response is). A backgrounder on Hezbollah that does not account for the roles of Syria and Iran looks like a result of ignorance or possibly spin-by-omission. So does an analysis of Hamas policy that neglects to mention that the movement's charter envisions a general slaughter of the Jews on Judgment Day.

Now, a specific example. On "Meet the Press" (July 16) the veteran NBC correspondent Martin Fletcher said he thought Israel was looking for a chance to eradicate the Hezbollah. He commented, "theyíll never say that publicly." This became a basis for anti-Israel spin by Danny Schechter, an award-winning television producer who is executive editor of the foundation-supported MediaChannel.org, Schechter treated the NBC correspondent's remarks as "a bombshell" revealing "a pre-meditated Israeli war plan just waiting for a pretext to implement." Actually, the NBC correspondent had revealed nothing. Mainly, he reviewed publicly known highlights of the Israel-Hezbollah conflict since Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000. His hint that he was telling his viewers something which Israelis wouldn't say in public may have been a touch of tv hype, or maybe he hadn't been watching Israeli television lately or reading the Hebrew press. Neither "Meet the Press" nor critic Schechter mentioned that Israel supports United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, which in effect would destroy the Hezbollah as an armed force. Schechter, by the way, refers to the Jerusalem-based Israel government as "Tel Aviv," a pretty good clue to where he stands.

--- Joseph M. Hochstein, Tel Aviv

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